Vaishno Devi Yatra – The Trek from Banganga to Bhavan
All You need to Know
A Yatra to Mata Rani’s Darbar, also known as Bhavan is the dream of every devotee. Those who have actually made plans to go are the fortunate ones who have been called by Mata Rani. It is believed that a visit to Vaishno Devi Temple is not possible unless Mata Vaishno Devi calls you.
The Vaishno Devi Temple is located at an altitude of 5200 feet above sea level in the Trikuta mountains of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Mata Vaishno Devi resides in a cave. There are no Murtis or images. Natural rock formations called Pindis are representative of Mata Rani. Mata Vaishno Devi is an incarnation of Maa Kali, Maa Lakshmi, and Maa Saraswati. She was created with their combined energies.
Before leaving for the Vaishno Devi Yatra, it is a good idea to know a little about the Yatra. What to expect – how to go about the various procedures and more. It is necessary to be informed in advance so that your Yatra is hassle-free and a joyful experience.
The devotees who are planning for undertaking the pilgrimage of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine are advised to hold along with a legitimate and verifiable negative rt-PCR report of 48 hours prior from a recognized testing facility for entry into the UT of J&K,” Ramesh Kumar, CEO, Shrine Board tweeted.
Arrival in Katra
Banganga Check Point in Katra, about 45 km from Jammu is the starting point of the Vaishno Devi Yatra.
Devotees from states other than Jammu and Kashmir need to have a Negative Covid test report with them. This report must be from an ICMR approved lab or testing center. Testing facilities are available at Katra Railway Station for those without a report.
Due to security reasons, only post-paid phones will work. You may buy a temporary prepaid card from Katra if you don’t have a post-paid phone and need a phone to communicate.
Make sure you have your Yatra Parchis. These can be booked online from the Shrine Board website. They are also available offline at counters at the Yatri Registration Center near the Katra Bus Stand. This procedure is mandatory and you will not be able to proceed from the Banganga Check Point without registration and the Parchi.
Helicopter Rides from Katra
Helicopter rides from Katra to Sanjicchati are available. These services are operated by Himalayan Air and Vectra. It is advisable to book tickets in advance through the Shrine Board website and not take a chance on arrival in Katra. Only 6 KG of luggage is allowed per passenger. The luggage will be scanned. A VIP pass will be issued to that availing of helicopter services. They are allowed to enter the temple from Gate No. 13 which takes less time.
Accommodation in Katra
Accommodation facilities are plentiful in Katra. However, it is advisable to book rooms in advance. YatraDham.Org offers convenient and affordable options in Katra.Book your Room
Banganga to Vaishno Devi Temple (Bhavan)
The 14 km trek to Vaishno Devi Temple starts from the Banganga Checkpoint in Katra. A paved track makes walking quite comfortable. You need to be in reasonably good physical condition. Ponies and palanquins (Palkis) are available in case you do not want to walk up. Rates are transparent and displayed at various locations in Katra. It takes about five hours for an average person to complete the trek.
All along the route there are plenty of food and drink stalls. It is advisable to keep yourself hydrated. Avoid colas and fizzy drinks. Stick to water or fruit juices. Drinking water is freely available all through the route. As the walking track winds its way up, there are steps at certain points on the route. Though these are steep, they are shortcuts and reduce the distance a little.
The first stage of the trek takes you to Charan Paduka, about 1.5 km from Banganga. Here one can see Mata‘s footprints in a rock. Darshan of Mata’s footprints provides blessings for the onward journey. There is a Shrine Board medical unit here, for anyone needing medical help.
The next stage is Ardhkuwari, about 6 km from Banganga and the halfway point of the trek. This is a cave where Mata Rani meditated for nine months. When She came out, Bhairon was at the cave entrance. Mataji extended the cave up to Vaishno Devi and emerged from there. Devotees attach great importance to the darshan of the cave. A battery car service is available from Ardhkuwari for senior citizens and physically challenged people.
About 2.5 km from Ardhakuwari comes the third stage of the trek – Himkoti. Here an area has been developed as a viewing and resting point by the Shrine Board. Beautiful views of the mountains above and below can be seen from here. One can rest a while before proceeding. Refreshments are available in the restaurant.
This is the highest point of the trek at an altitude of 6200 feet above sea level. This is also a place where devotees rest. There is a shopping complex as well as a 24-bed hospital here. The helipad for the helicopter services to Vaishno Devi is located here. Bhavan is just about 2 km from here.
Mata Vaishno Devi Temple (Bhavan)
The last stage of the trek is relatively mild and easy to cross. All tiredness and fatigue vanishes miraculously as you catch the first sight of the holy Bhavan. Inside the cave is the sacred Pindis which represent Mata Vaishno Devi. These are natural rock formations. All facilities like accommodation, toilets, banks, communication centers, cloakrooms and more are available here.
Prasad for offering can be bought here. Please note – phones, handbags, etc are not allowed in the temple. These can be kept in lockers that are available free of cost. Even footwear can be kept in the lockers.
Another point to note is that the morning and evening Aartis are done at 6:20 AM and 6:20 PM each day. The Bhavan doors are closed 20 minutes before the Aarti (6:00 AM and 6:00 PM). The Aarti continues till 08:00 AM in the morning and 08:00 PM in the evening. After the Aartis, the doors of the Bhavan remain closed for 30 minutes for cleaning purposes.
A point to keep in mind is that during monsoons and winters, crowds are considerably less as compared to peak seasons. The waiting time during these seasons is much lesser and tourist facilities are not overloaded.
This is a 1.5 km walk from Vaishno Devi Temple and the culmination of the Vaishno Devi Yatra. It is a steep climb but fortunately, there is a ropeway from Bhavan to Bhairon Ghati. It is believed that the Darshan of Mata Rani is incomplete without the darshan of Bhairon Baba. After killing Bhairon Nath, Mata Vaishno Devi forgave him because he sincerely repented for his mistake. She blessed him to be a part of the Vaishno Devi Yatra.
The Vaishno Devi Yatra is now over and all that remains is to get back to Katra. The walk down is naturally much easier and without much strain. With inner peace in mind, the devotee is filled with Divine energy and spiritual thoughts, wondering when the next call from Mata Rani will come! When that call comes, it will be time to say once again – ‘Chalo Bulawa Aaya Hai’